“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming,” said Theodore Roosevelt.
On Sunday in the final round of the Valspar Championship, Adam Hadwin got to be the man in the arena. He was leading the tournament entering the Snake Pit, a trio of the most difficult holes at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course, and he proceeded to hit his tee shot into the water. Hadwin took a double bogey, but he collected himself and went on to par Nos. 17 and 18 to win his first PGA Tour event by a stroke. In so doing, he joined the elite club of PGA Tour winners born in Canada, and he also earned a spot in the field at The Masters. Very cool, especially for considering the story I recently heard about his path to the PGA Tour.
Flashback to the year 2005. Henry Brunton is the Canadian National Team Coach. His phone rings. It’s Jim Kelson of the University of Tennessee. Kelson wants to know if Brunton is interested in bringing a Canadian Junior National Team to participate in Tennessee’s tournament at Holston Hills in September, which was perfectly within the NCAA rules at the time. Brunton says, “Yes,” and he puts together a team of five players. His roster included four of the top-ranked juniors in Canada at the time: Ben Moser, Rafael Lee, Christopher Ross and Hugo Lauzon. It also included Adam Hadwin, a relatively unknown high school senior from Abbotsford, British Columbia.
“At the time, no one in the U.S. knew about Adam,” Brunton said. “The opportunity for Adam to play in the [University of Tennessee] event proved to be a tipping point … Adam showed the coaches at the event what I knew. He was a tremendously talented and committed golf athlete with great upside potential. What they couldn’t see is that he had a rage inside to make it to the PGA Tour.”
Hadwin wanted to play college golf, but he needed a scholarship to follow his dreams.
“I was not aware that any college coach had seen him play or offered him a scholarship or knew much about him before the tournament,” said Mark Crabtree, head golf coach at Louisville.
In the first round of the tournament, Hadwin shot 1-over par (72), which put him in the top-20 players. Not bad for a 17-year-old kid playing 2,676.3 miles from home. In the second round that afternoon, he shot even-par (71). The next day he followed with a 73. In a field that included top college golfers from the University of Alabama, Pepperdine and Vanderbilt, Hadwin finished tied for 19th.
It was during the tournament that Crabtree noticed Hadwin.
“He had an impressive golf swing,” Crabtree said. “And he beat four of the five guys on my team. I called him the next week. I told him about my background, our team and the amazing opportunities to get better at Louisville.”
The next year, Hadwin was a Louisville Cardinal.
Hadwin was not the best 14-year-old golfer in Canada; he was not the best 16-year-old, nor the best 18-year-old or 20-year-old. When the opportunity was given, however, his talent showed. It was a glimpse into the future; he kept getting better and developed a knack for thriving under pressure.
Hadwin was an All-American (Honorable Mention) and Conference Champion at Louisville, but he did not instantly become a superstar after graduation. Five years later, however, he topped the season-ending money list on the Web.com Tour, winning two tournaments on the circuit. More toil. More grinding. Long flights, missed connections. Hours and hours of practice. Then more validation, a 59 at the Career Builder Challenge in January. Now he’s a PGA Tour winner.
From me and all of Canada, congrats Adam! Best of luck at the Masters! We’re very proud of you!